The expected happened today as FIFA, the organizing body that handed down the two-window transfer ban to FC Barcelona for violating youth player strictures, denied the club’s appeal. So the transfer ban remains intact, affecting player movement in the winter and summer 2015 transfer windows.
The club’s next step will be to (again) head for CAS and an appeal.
Typically, the club issued a huffy statement full of dudgeon and indignation:
“FC Barcelona cannot accept an affront to the spirit of our Masia, a world renowned example of academic, human and sporting education.”
Jackasses. Arrogance is what got the club into trouble in the first place, so permit me the temerity to suggest that piling more atop that, and adding a soupcon of outrage, is probably not going to be the correct tack.
But let’s figure some stuff out, shall we?
To catch you up
FIFA alleged that Lee Seung-Woo, Paik Seung-Ho, Chan Kyul Hee, Theo Chendri, Bobby Adekanye, Patrice Sousia, Giancarlo Poveda, Andrei Onana and Maxi Rolón were all signed in violation of the FIFA rules. The U-18s: Seung-Woo, Seung-Ho, Kyul-Hee, Chendri, Adekanye and Sousia were banned from playing for the club. Barça was fined as well as transfer banned, and the RFEF was also fined for allowing the bogus transfers. Any good lawyer would contend that the FIFA provisions essentially had as many holes as a wheel of machine-gunned Swiss cheese. But, the relevant rules in place as regards players under 16 were clear.
— A player’s parents have to move to the country in question of their own volition, and take their young’un with them.
— IF the player is 16-18, the move takes place withIN the EU.
— The player’s home is within 50 kilometers of the national border involved.
So yes, if Barça was going to shop for youth players they should have been doing so in Perpignan, or setting up a company to offer a prospect’s parents a nice, cushy job doing something or other, and “It’s up to you if you want to bring your child with you, but we might have a way for him to keep kicking a football around, should he so desire.” The club could have done this all the right way, but didn’t.
Not surprisingly the most talented among them, Lee Seung-Woo, is the one that kinda started the FIFA examination. At the time, it was rumored that one of the suitors that the player rejected ratted the club out to FIFA. Who knows? But if your cupboard is clean, you don’t mind people wearing white gloves knocking about in it.
So what happened?
Well, FIFA decided to clarify youth football rules, because young players were essentially being swapped and traded around like souvenirs, plucked from their home countries to play football for a foreign club, then tossed aside if the player doesn’t meet the standard.
Now, you can quibble all you like about how FIFA is corrupt, blablabla, but as they decided to clarify and crack down on these rules, there was Barça, with a sextet of bright, shining prospects, many of whom had been offered contracts from clubs, sitting there with a “KICK ME” sign on its back. Why? Because the club clearly violated the guidelines. Because the FIFA investigation took a year, the club had plenty of time to seek an arrangement, maybe ask FIFA what could be done to make things right, etc, etc.
The club did nothing, then when the fine and ban were handed down essentially held forth with “Look what our Masia does for these young men until they are 18, under these silly rules we couldn’t have signed Messi” defense, essentially arguing that because the club gives them an education and develops them, FIFA should look the other way as it considers enforcement for the rules violations. “We broke the rules, but look at the good that we do!”
The regulation that has been supposedly violated has as its aim the protection of the underage players against sports clubs that take in minors without guaranteeing their rights to correct care and education that FCB runs under the La Masía model.
The Masía model incorporates academic education programmes, accommodation, meals and medical assistance, with all the necessary attention to the minors’ needs apart from sports development planning. FCB educates people before sportsmen – something that has not been taken into account by FIFA, which has decided to impose a sanction ignoring the educational function that our training programme has.
All FCB players have always had their federal licenses in order and up to date according to the demands of the corresponding federations.
Some players affected by the FIFA investigation have even been called up by the Federación Catalana de Fútbol in order to participate in inter-autonomous region championships with the Catalonia team.
When FIFA began its investigation, these players’ federal licenses were taken away and these individuals have not played in official matches again. Therefore, under no circumstances have any of them taken part in a non-regulated sports event, breaching that provided for in the regulations.
FIFA giggled, decided this would be a perfect time to set an example, and handed down a two-window transfer ban to the club.
What about the babies?
Well, that is up, ultimately, to the players and their families. They have in effect been unable to play for the club, and assuming CAS does what many expect, that will be another year in which they are unable to play for the club. Would those youth players reopen contacts from clubs that have offered them deals in the past, or stick with Barça? Good question. Brightest among them is Lee Seung-Woo, a Korean phenom hailed as … you guessed it … “the next Messi.”
The club has 90 days from today, when the decision was handed down, to “regularize” the situations of the 6 players. It is unclear what this means, since the players are technically at the club illegally. But you can imagine that not all of the six, assuming the usual alert Premiership clubs and their talent acquisition departments, will be at the club by the end of the sanction period.
But this summer …
The ban was “stayed” this summer, while the club began the appeal process. The cynics out there, and I am among them, suggest that the club knew full well the appeal wasn’t going to be upheld, and spent like drunken sailors in this summer window during the appeal process, with the full knowledge that for the next two windows, no business, aside from recalling loans, could happen.
Because the ban will come down, effective winter window when the club really doesn’t do any business anyhow, this summer is still wide open. It also explains, regarding the Douglas rumors, why he was signed “for 2015.”
This is all why, when discussing this summer’s transfer window, the board critters said that the club has up to 120m to spend. Only the most devoted Pollyanna would believe that the club’s many conversations with FIFA during the appeal process didn’t make it clear that this was coming. The club screwed up, knew that it screwed up, tried to bluff its way out with “Look at all the good we do,” even as it knew that wasn’t going to work.
So the club gets two seasons’ of transfer business done, claps its hands in glee that the money to be used in summer 2015 to buy players can now be banked to go toward the Nou Nou and crowing about even MORE record profits, and off we go.
(Insert boilerplate rant here about why the board needs to go.)
Nice business, right?
In this transfer window, the club effectively set itself up for the next two windows, all while spending (net) less than its Drunken Sailor budget. It is widely expected that the club will add another player in this window, with Cuadrado still the name on many people’s lips. Before now the club had, over two seasons, effectively added only Neymar, Alba and Song, so it wasn’t like transfers were happening hot and heavy, even as they were needed.
Further, if you look at the next level down, with players such as Ie, Diagne, Munir, Halilovic, Samper, Grimaldo and Bagnack to name some, the club can say as it promotes from within, that it is sticking to the bright, shining examples of God, country and La Masia. It’s the payoff of an academy of, at present, absurd talent levels.
The club also has to hope that no serious injuries happen during that two-window ban, though it’s rare that Barça makes that kind of signing. At present, the only area in which the club is a bit thin is in attack. But as Enrique wants a 23-player squad and if we assume that Song will be leaving in this window unless he doesn’t want to play for Barça for the next season, we can expect a squad addition, most likely in attack, hence the Cuadrado notion.
That would leave the club exceptionally well set up with a powerful core group of veterans and youth players, as well as players-in-waiting, to more than capably weather a two-window ban.
Deulofeu will be able to return next summer. The other loaned players, Tello and Suarez are under two-year terms, so won’t be a question anyhow (even if only Suarez will be returning to the club).
And that’s it for now. The CAS appeal process is the next step in the dance, where many expect to see the ban reduced to winter window only. No word yet on when that hearing will be, only that the club intends to appeal.